R&B vocal quartet The Manhattans were nearly two decades into a massively successful career when they released their twelfth album Black Tie in 1981. The album’s opening track “Just One Moment Away” finds the group reuniting with writer Leo Graham and Paul Richmond, who they previously worked with on the massive hit “Shining Star”. Lead Singer Gerald Alston’s voice comes across like a fine wine.
“You Stand Out” is up next and is another winning ballad where Alston professes his love for his woman. “Let Your Love Come Down” follows and finds the group having a good time and I can only imagine how this song would sound live, as the groove is that infectious. A cover of David Hudson’s 1980 hit “Honey, Honey” is up next, and it is one of my top three slow cuts from The Manhattans.
Alston’s voice sets the mood while avoiding vulgarity and truly makes the songs his own. The sentimental ballad “When You See Me Laughing” is up next. Written by group member Winfred “Blue” Lovett, the song is reminiscent of Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown”. Serving almost as a sequel to the group’s classic “Kiss and Say Goodbye” , “When You See Me Laughing” has a message that anyone who has ever had a broken heart can relate to. Getting over an ex is always tough, particularly when your friends want to take you out and you have to fake happiness.
“I Wana Thank You” follows and is a safe choice. Now Gerald and the rest of the group sing the song very well, but after the strength of the songs that preceded it, it comes off as a bit of a filler. “Deep Water” picks up the momentum a bit before the Gerald Alston written “Just Can’t Seem to Get Next to You”. The albums closing two tracks “I Was Made for You” and “When I Leave Tomorrow” are textbook Manhattans but solid songs over all.
Throughout a fifty-six year career, The Manhattans have recorded 45 hits on the Billboard R&B Chart, including twelve Top 10 R&B hits. While mainstream listeners primarily know them for the huge hits “Shining Star”, “Kiss, and Say Goodbye”, Black Tie is testament to the group’s natural talent.
Final Grade: B
Top Songs: “Honey, Honey”, “Just One Moment Away” and “You Stand Out
Black Tie is available on all streaming platforms